Archive for Financial Self Defense

CREDIT CARD FRAUD IN 5S

Financial Self Defense against Credit Card Fraud

An image of someone typing in credit card information into the computerWhodunnit? When we’re talking about credit card fraud, everyone’s pointing fingers at everyone else. Consumers tend to blame the credit card issuer, but the vulnerability usually lies with the point-of-sale terminal.

Tampering with a credit card reader takes just a few minutes and can be done with an inexpensive device that’s available on Amazon. There are lots of other ways your information can be skimmed, too. However, none of that points to a security deficiency with your credit union or credit card company.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent and recognize credit card fraud before it happens. Read on for all you need to know about credit card fraud.  

5 ways your card can be frauded 

  1. It’s physically lifted from your wallet.
  2. A restaurant or bar server skims it while it’s in their possession.
  3. A terminal you use is compromised.
  4. An online breach puts your information on the black market.
  5. Your computer has been hacked. 

5 signs a terminal’s been compromised 

  1.    The security seal has been voided. When the pump is safe to use, the label has a red, blue or black background. A breached seal shows the words “Void Open” in white.
  2.    The card reader is too big for the machine.
  3.    The pin pad looks newer than the rest of the machine.
  4.    The pin pad looks raised.
  5.    The credit card reader is not secured in place. It should fit tightly and not be easily rattled. 

5 times you’re at high risk for credit card fraud 

  1. You lost your card.
  2. You’ve patronized a business in an area that’s unfamiliar to you.
  3. A company you use has been breached.
  4. You shared your information online with an unverifiable contact.
  5. You downloaded something from an unrecognizable source. 

5 ways to protect yourself against credit card fraud 

  1. Check all card readers for signs of tampering before paying.
  2. Never share your credit card information online unless you’re absolutely sure the website is authentic and the company is trustworthy.
  3. Check your monthly credit card statements for suspicious activity and review your credit reports on a frequent basis.
  4. Use cash when patronizing a business in an unfamiliar area.
  5. Don’t download attachments from unknown sources. 

5 steps to take if your credit card’s been frauded 

  1. Lock the compromised account.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
  3. Consider a credit freeze.
  4. Alert the FTC.
  5. Open new accounts. 

At Section 705 Federal Credit Union, we’ve always got your back! Call, click, or stop by today to ask about steps you can take to protect your information from getting hacked. 

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/how-credit-card-skimming-works-960773

https://www.thebalance.com/more-at-risk-of-credit-card-fraud-960780

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/credit-card-fraud-works-stay-safe/

http://gizmodo.com/home-depot-was-hit-by-the-same-hack-as-target-1631865043

6 COMMON TAX MISTAKES TO AVOID

Image of Uncle SamIt’s Tax Time!

It’s that time of year again! Get ready to break out the calculator and pencils; dig out the enormous pile of receipts, tax forms, and pay stubs, and get to work. Whether you choose to go it alone, use a tax-prep computer program or hand it all over to an accountant, start with checking out our handy list of common mistakes people make on their tax returns.

1.) Faulty math

One of the most common errors on filed taxes is math mistakes. A small miscalculation can throw off all your numbers and get you into trouble with the IRS. However you choose to prepare your taxes, be sure to triple-check the math before filing.

2.) Name changes and misspellings

When preparing your taxes, you’re thinking about numbers, but don’t forget to pay attention to everything else on your form! If you use a name that’s different than the one the IRS has on file for your Social Security number, or even if you spell it wrong, that can mean trouble for you and your taxes. If you’ve recently changed your legal name, be sure to let the Social Security Administration know.

3.) Omitting extra income

Many people neglect to include secondary sources of income on their tax forms. This may include freelance work and any other side work they may have done throughout the year. If you’ve taken any side jobs in 2017, fill out a 1099-MISC and file it along with your taxes.

4.) Deducting funds donated to charity

Charity laws are complicated! First, only donations given to an organization with a tax-exempt status can be deducted from your taxes. Second, if you’ve donated food items or used clothing, they had to have been in decent shape to be eligible for a write-off. Finally, calculate the value of your non-monetary donations according to what they would be worth if you’d sell them now. Don’t forget to include those charity tax receipts when you file!

5.) Using the most recent tax laws

The current administration has made some major changes to the tax code. While most of these changes won’t take effect until you file your first taxes for 2018, there are some changes that are effective for this year, including the following:
  • The standard deduction increased to $6,350 for single, $9,350 for head of household, and $12,700 for married filing jointly.
  • The maximum earned income tax credit increased to $6,318.
  • The maximum income limit for the EITC increased to $53,930.
  • The foreign earned income deduction increased to $102,100.
  • Annual deductible amounts for Health Savings Accounts increased for individuals only, to $3,400.

6.) Signing your forms

If you’re filing through the USPS, be sure to put your signature wherever necessary, and get a mailing receipt. If filing online, you can use a PIN instead. Most places that require a signature will need to be dated as well.
 
Check your forms for errors before submitting and file with confidence.

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3 Steps to Strong Passwords You Can Remember

Passwords are the house keys to your online accounts, and when they’re hacked, intruders can break in and wreak havoc.

Women typing on computer

Photo Credit: http://ow.ly/SBlC30gQ8mN

To create strong passwords, you have to strike a balance between making them difficult for others to guess and making them easy enough for you to remember. Many people favor simple ones at their own risk: “123456” and “password” have remained the two most common passwords for six years, according to password security company SplashData.

Unlike many other security measures on websites, a password is one you have full control over. And given that over 1,000 data breaches happened in 2017 alone, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, it might be time to strengthen your passwords. Here’s how.

How to make a foolproof password

1. Start with a sentence

Despite the “word” in “password,” it’s better to think of starting with multiple words. Some websites require only six or eight characters for passwords, but that doesn’t mean it’s a recommended length.

» MORE: How to make online banking more secure

When it comes to passwords, “longer is better,” says Richard Crone, a payments expert and CEO of Crone Consulting LLC. “And the way to do that is to use a sentence structure.”

Pick a sentence that’s memorable but doesn’t have details that relate too closely to you. Avoid using birthdays or the names of pets or family members, and feel free to be creative. Here’s an example: “cats do not like cucumbers.” Then, take out the spaces, “catsdonotlikecucumbers.”

“It’s really the length and the unrelatedness that gives you the best protection,” Crone says.

2. Avoid using real words

Change how your sentence looks by removing all the vowels, or only use the first one or two letters of each word. Don’t use dictionary words, which makes your password easier to guess.

The previous example becomes “cadonolicu” if you’re using the first two letters of every word in that sentence.

3. Mix in numbers, symbols and uppercase letters

Bring in a variety of characters to your password. Some websites have minimum requirements so you need to use at least one capital letter, one lowercase letter and a number. You might have to add a symbol like a period or exclamation point, too. As you mix it up, don’t repeat letters, numbers or symbols right next to each other.

By capitalizing some letters, replacing the “l” with an exclamation point and turning an “o” into a zero, the sample password becomes “CaD0No!icU.”

Use a password manager

The steps above help when you’re creating one really strong password, but remembering a dozen or more such passwords might make your head spin. That’s why you might want to consider using a password manager such as LastPass or Dashlane. There are free options, but some features are available only for purchase.

Think of a password manager as a bank vault that creates and stores long and complex passwords so you don’t have to. The only password to know is the one that unlocks the vault. Once you type that one, you can log into whatever online accounts you decide to keep on the password manager.

If you don’t use an online password manager, consider writing down complex passwords and storing them in a safe place such as a locked cabinet at home or in an encrypted file on your computer. These passwords should be difficult to access as well as to guess.

A password is “like scrambled eggs,” Crone says. “The more you fluff it up and spice it up, the better.”

The article 3 Steps to Strong Passwords You Can Remember originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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Why Do I Need To Get Preapproved For A Loan?

 
Q: I’m in the market for a new home, and everyone I talk to, from friends to financial advisors, suggests I get preapproved for a mortgage before I start house hunting. Why is this so important?
house with sold sign

Photo Credit: http://ow.ly/MP2m30gxTCA

 

A: You’re actually on the receiving end of great advice. When looking to take out a large loan, whether it’s for purchasing a home or buying a car, having that preapproval in hand before you start your search is crucial.

Depending upon the type of loan, the process of getting preapproved for a loan can take time. The lender will begin by asking for your financial history and other personal information. If you have a co-borrower, the lender will need this information about them as well.
 
You’ll be asked to provide your Social Security Number (SSN) and for permission to allow the lender to access your credit report. If the information you provide is satisfactory, as is your credit report, the lender will begin constructing the details of your loan. When they have determined how large of a loan you will be eligible for, they will grant you a preapproval letter. The letter will also detail your estimated interest rate on the loan, though that will sometimes also depend upon the specifics of your purchase, such as the year and condition of a car or appraisal on a home.
 
Having your preapproval letter will shorten the loan process significantly when you’re actually ready to take out the loan. However, that is only a small benefit of getting preapproved before you start “shopping.”
Here are some other advantages of getting preapproved for a loan:

1.) You’ll know what you can afford

Your preapproval will tell you exactly what you can afford. This way, you’ll avoid being disappointed later when you have your heart set on a certain home only to be told you can’t swing it financially. Knowing how large a loan you’ll qualify for will simplify your search and get you into your new home or car sooner.
Be sure to calculate other monthly costs, such as property taxes, home insurance and increased auto insurance rates when determining the actual amount of money you’ll need to shell out each month.

2.) Don’t get taken for a ride

Picture this scene at a car dealership:
 
Salesperson: So, you’re here to buy a new car! What are you looking for?
You: Well, I want something with a smooth ride and –
Salesperson: Got it. And how much of a monthly payment can you afford?
You: Weeelll, I think I can swing up to $200 a month, but I’d rather something closer to $150 if you —
Salesperson: Step right this way please! Let me show our new line of Camrys at just $205 a month! They have the most luxurious feel and the ride is smooth as butter!
 
What happened here is, quite simply, a salesperson looking to make the most money out of a customer. When you’re unsure about how much you can spend, the dealer will capitalize on your uncertainty and try to sell you a car that just barely skims the maximum amount you’ve decided you can afford.
 
Also, when you name a monthly payment you can manage, the dealer will work with that number instead of talking about the price of the car. They may try to inflate the payment with charges and fees just because they fit within your named payment amount.
 
In contrast, when you show up at the dealer with a preapproval in hand, the salesman will have to show you cars with price tags that fit within your loan amount.
 
Don’t get taken for a ride; get your preapproval before you set foot in the dealer shop!

3.) Be taken seriously

A car dealer will take you a lot more seriously when you wave that preapproval in their face, since having that information in hand shows you’re ready to buy.
 
When purchasing a home, the same rule holds true. A realtor will be able to assist you more efficiently when you know exactly how much house you can afford. They may also give you better service since you’re showing that you’re serious about buying a home. In fact, many realtors refuse to show homes to buyers who don’t have a preapproval in hand.

4.) Know you have financing you can trust

When you show up at the car dealership with a preapproval from your credit union, you know the deal is in your best interest. Many auto shops have access to several financing options and they’re almost always going to put customers into financing options that are in their own wallet’s best interests.

5.) Purchase your dream home

A preapproval makes you a valuable customer. It also helps you stand out from the pack. If you’re looking to buy a home in a competitive market, you may be competing with several other buyers for the same house. Having your preapproval will give you a leg up on bidding wars. A seller will be more eager to work with someone who’s already started the mortgage process. You can end your search sooner with a preapproval!
 
In the market for a new home or car? Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Section 705 Federal Credit Union to hear about our fantastic rates on mortgage and auto loans!

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Everything You Need To Know About The Equifax Breach

Proactive Steps after the Equifax Data Breach

 a lock

Photo Credit: http://ow.ly/cjx530f5RQD

In a recently revealed breach, the scope of which the country has never before seen, 143 million Americans may have had their personal information exposed.

Equifax, one the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies, reported a massive data breach that lasted from mid-May through the end of July. Hackers were able to access people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even some driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers of approximately 209,000 people and dispute documents containing personally identifying information of 182,000 people. It wasn’t just Americans who were targeted – the hackers also got their hands on personal information of some UK and Canadian consumers.

Right now, the situation is still developing and there are many more questions than answers. Researchers are seeking explanations for the site’s outdated security system, an accurate number of those affected and the impact this will have on the future of credit reporting.

Meanwhile, though, people are wondering if they’ve been affected and what they can do about it. If you have any type of credit product such as a credit card, mortgage or auto loan, there’s a chance your personal information may have been compromised. Instead of panicking, though, it’s best to learn all you can about this data breach and then take the proper and practical steps toward protecting yourself against future damage.

If this sounds daunting, take heart – Section 705 FCU is here to help! We’ll walk you through some suggested steps and clear instructions for what you can do now.

1.) Find out if your information was exposed

You can do this by visiting an Equifax created website for sharing information about this issue, equifaxsecurity2017.com. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name along with the last six digits of your Social Security number. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by the Equifax breach.

Since your SSN is sensitive information, be sure to complete this step only on a secure computer that uses an encrypted network connection. Once you’re visiting the Equifax informational site, you’ll also find easy access to frequently asked questions about the breach. In addition, Equifax has set up a call center to assist consumers. The call center’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily (weekends included), Eastern Time. That number is (866) 447-7559.

2.) Sign up for free protective services

Whether your information was exposed or not, U.S. consumers are being offered a full year of complimentary credit monitoring and other services through Equifax’s TrustedID product. The site will provide you with a date to return and sign up for these services. Be sure to follow up on the designated date because the last day for enrollment is Nov. 21, 2017.

The protective program includes the following features: Equifax credit report copies; three-bureau credit file monitoring, providing automated alerts of any major changes in your credit reports; Equifax credit report lock, preventing third parties from accessing your Equifax report; Social Security number monitoring, which performs online searches of suspicious websites that may list your Social Security number; and $1 million identity theft insurance, which covers some expenses in the event of a stolen identity.

Be warned, though, that the fine print of this service contains a catch. The terms of service agreement for TrustedID states that enrollees must employ arbitration over civil courts in order to settle any disputes. Critics of the company argue that Equifax is taking advantage of victims by forcing them to sign over their rights. You may, however, decide that the benefits offered by this service far outweigh its negative fallout.

3.) Place a credit freeze or a fraud alert on your files

If your information has been exposed, consider placing a credit freeze on your credit bureaus. This will make it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name, though it won’t stop a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.

Instead of a credit freeze, you can choose to place a fraud alert on your files. This will warn creditors that you may have been victimized by identity theft, alerting them to verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you.

Even if the Equifax site did not tell you you’ve been exposed, it’s always a good idea to closely monitor your credit card and financial accounts for charges you don’t recognize.

4.) File your taxes early

Tax identity theft is more common than you think. If your SSN was accessed in this breach, it’s best to file your taxes as soon as you have all the necessary tax information. Don’t let a scammer use your SSN to get their hands on your tax refund. Also, be sure to respond immediately to any letters you receive from the IRS, though be suspicious of any emails or phone calls claiming to be from the IRS, as the IRS will not initially notify you using such means.

The Equifax breach may be one of the worst the US has ever seen, but by taking the proper steps toward protecting yourself, you can minimize any potential damage.

 

Interested in more stuff like this? Connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube!

 

SOURCES: 
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do
http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/349869-five-questions-about-the-massive-equifax-breach?amp
https://motherboard.vice.com/amp/en_us/article/mbb8vv/want-to-know-if-your-ssn-was-included-in-the-equifax-breach-good-luck
https://aaacreditguide.com/equifax-data-breach/

Safety First: Preparing For Hurricane Season

Hurricane season preparation

Have a Plan this Hurricane Season?

Statistics show that 97% of hurricanes in the Atlantic occur between June 1 and Oct. 15. This is according to researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In the Pacific, that date range runs from May 15 to Nov. 30. Like it or not, hurricane season will soon be upon us!
 
There’s nothing you can do to stop them from coming, but you can take steps to minimize the damage in situations like this. There are two big factors that influence survival and property damage: planning and swift action on the advice of emergency personnel. If you live in an area affected by hurricanes or similar natural events, the worst thing you can do is not prepare for them.
 
Here are four ways to yourself for hurricane season. Keep safe with strategies like these!

1.) Plan your evacuation

The most important things you can protect during any disaster are yourself and your family. The best way to do that is to get to higher ground, away from the dangers of wind and water. Having a plan for your evacuation helps you do just that.
 
Your plan should include where you’ll go, how you’ll get there and where you’ll stay once you’re there. Expect hotels and other shelters to reach capacity in a hurry, so try to find friends or family you can stay with. Have at least two routes planned in case one becomes blocked due to traffic or weather.
 
Don’t forget your furry friends. Many shelters will house dogs and cats in an emergency. If you can’t take them with you, have a plan for where they’ll stay until the weather returns to normal.

2.) Stock your shelter

If you don’t live in an evacuation zone or have facilities in your house to weather the storm, make sure you have adequate supplies in case power, water and other essential services are cut off for extended periods of time. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a list of supplies that should be included in your disaster preparedness kit. Topping the list are clear essentials: one gallon of water per person for three days, three days (nine meals) of non-perishable food, a flashlight and a first-aid kit.
 
One item that may escape notice is a crank-powered or battery-operated radio. Look for a weather-band radio that includes a cellphone charging port. This can help keep you connected in the event of an extended power outage.
 
Being financially prepared is important, too. If power or communication services are out, your debit and credit cards may not work. Have enough cash around to pay for a hotel stay or a week of groceries. Just ensure that cash is in a secure location where it can’t be easily lost or stolen.

3.) Prepare your home

There are several steps you can take around the house to minimize hurricane damage. Remove dead or dying limbs from trees on your property. Reinforce gutters and downspouts to minimize the threat of water damage.
 
Also consider reinforcing the windows and doors, including the garage door. Installing shutters or tracking hardware to facilitate the addition of reinforcements can not only provide you with peace of mind, they can add to the resale value of your home.

4.) Check your documents

In emergency situations, the last thing you want to be worried about is whether your insurance will cover damages. Review these documents with your agent at least once a year to make sure you have the coverage you need. Also, make sure you keep an itemized list of valuables in your home. Take pictures wherever possible.
 
While you’re securing documents, be sure to get copies of all your important identifying information. It may be smart to keep originals of documents, such as your Social Security card, birth certificate, the deed to your house and hard copies of your insurance policies in a secure location, like a safe deposit box. Trying to get duplicates of these in the aftermath of a storm can be challenging.
 
No one can do anything about the weather. All we can control is our response to it. Make sure you and your family are prepared for the worst, and weather the storm in safety!
 

In case of a weather emergency, learn more about CO-OP Shared Branching. This network allows you to do transactions at participating credit unions other than Section 705 Federal Credit Union!

 
SOURCES:

Job Security: Four Practical Ideas For Making Yourself Indispensable

Job security can do wonders for your morale and your peace of mind.

Unfortunately, 40% of Americans fear they will lose their jobs in the next 12 months, according to a Pew study.

That’s bad news both for companies and their employees. Workers who worry about their job security are less likely to be effective. It”s exhausting to worry about your job constantly, and when you’re exhausted, your work suffers.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your position at work. Try these four ideas to boost your value to your employer!

1.) Become an expert

coffee cup on desk with computers

Photo Credit: Pixabay http://ow.ly/W0S0305jgWZ

Offer specific knowledge that no one else can. Become the go-to person in one essential area.

Learning everything about one of your company’s biggest clients, or every facet of a popular product or service, can give you a strong advantage. Being an expert in a field that fits into every part of your company is a great way to make yourself indispensable.

When choosing an area for skills development, try to focus on business segments that are growing. Look for places where there’s new hiring or promotions. Those represent the future of the company, and you want to be right there in the thick of it.

2.) Help others

Help others because you’re a team player, not because you’re expecting them to turn around and help you again. This positive attitude is another strong asset that will stick in the minds of managers making tough personnel choices.

When it comes time for companies to make tough decisions about who to keep, they often look for flexible people. Downsizing is easier if you’ve got people who can easily flip between job functions. Helping others deal with their workloads can demonstrate that kind of flexibility. In the worst case scenario, having one more person calling you indispensable because you’re always there to help them can only benefit your job security.

3.) Master a system

New technology is often the bane of businesses. When importing a new system, piece of equipment or software tool, it takes time to train employees to use it. Worse yet, if no one knows how to use it, the considerable capital expense invested in it is basically wasted.

You can help prevent that waste by learning a system better than anyone else. Become the resource person for a piece of technology that’s instrumental to your business. It could be a data entry system, a new machine or a network resource. That puts another tangible value behind your attachment to the company: The machine or system is useless for the time it would take to train someone new.

4.) Develop your soft skills

New people can be trained in just about anything, and they might be able to do it better than you. Younger workers may be willing to do the same work for a lower salary, or have more recent knowledge about an industry. What they don’t have is an integration in company culture that makes work easier. You can develop that integration by working on the “people skills” that help the workplace function.

This could be as basic as knowing names and building relationships in other departments, or as involved as taking a course in interpersonal communication. Become the co-worker everyone wants to work with. While you still need to keep your job-specific knowledge up-to-date, maintaining relationships with your colleagues and clients is just as important.

SOURCES:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2016/02/15/bulletproof-your-position-10-tips-for-improving-job-security/2/#bae83e338e7f 
http://www.ioatwork.com/when-does-job-security-affect-job-performance/ 
http://work.chron.com/job-security-influences-job-satisfaction-performance-30781.html 
http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2016/10/06/the-state-of-american-jobs/

How Boomers Can Retire The Way Millennials Work

Retire Smarter, Not Harder!beach

You may have noticed a surge in the number of ponytails and slightly exposed tattoos around the workplace water cooler. Or perhaps you find you now need to get to the office earlier if you plan to land a space for locking up your bike. Maybe you’ve had to make peace with the fact that the kid in your meetings who doesn’t look old enough to ride solo on a roller coaster is not an intern, but an actual employee!  Face it, millennials are a force in the American labor force. In fact, by 2020, they’ll represent more than half of all workers in the country.  In spite of what you’ve read, those pesky youths can actually teach us experienced folks some important lessons about money, some of which might make you rethink part of your retirement planning.  Here are some of the things they’ve figured out that the rest of us might want to consider:

1.)  Don’t be afraid to move.  USA Today recently reported that one-third of all employees in America are freelance, by-the-job workers.  In many cases, these jobs are being handled by young people, many of whom commute over Wi-Fi from home or a coffee shop, instead of 45 minutes of bumper-to-bumper on I-10.  In fact, many of those young people would need an airplane ticket to come into the office.  An increasing number of young people live a “digital nomad” lifestyle, living in the cheapest cities and working wherever they feel most inclined.  It’s easier to make ends meet living in San Antonio, where the median home price is $150,000, than it is in San Francisco, with a median home price six times as high.

The same logic works for retirement.  There’s no reason to keep living in a pricey neighborhood just because it’s a convenient drive to the office you’re not visiting any longer.  In fact, many retirees are following the digital nomads abroad, retiring to Asia and Central America, where the cost of living is pennies on the dollar.  In Belize, for example, a couple can retire with a budget of around $13,000 per year.  That’s below the poverty line in the United States!  How many flights could you buy for the grand-kids with that kind of savings?  Would they love to visit you on the beach?  You bet they would!

If you think you might want to move, check out our mortgage here, because even a fraction of your home value here could buy you property abroad.

2.) Know what to rent … know what to buy.   It used to be that every young person’s living room looked the same:  futon from the curb, coffee table from Ikea and an enormous corner bookshelf filled to the brim with DVDs.  Before that, the DVDs were LPs, the coffee table was a spool table and that futon was probably the same futon from the same curb, just 20 years earlier.  But if you ask millennials how many DVDs or albums they own, they’ll respond with a confused look.  Why would anyone own movies or music?  Paying $20 for one movie or album doesn’t make sense when you can get all of Netflix for $8 per month or Spotify for free.

The same is true for a lot of the things you might want in retirement.  Is it time to replace that car?  Why not lease it?  Do you want to own that house forever?  Why not create a leaseback arrangement?  Do you own a timeshare?  Sell it and put the proceeds into a high-yield money market account.  It’ll go a long way toward paying for your vacations, wherever you choose to go.

Check our vehicle lease rates. Or drop us a line, and let us walk you through your budget to see what you may consider selling or renting, instead of owning for the sake of ownership.

3.)  Get connected.  Young people can do just about everything through social media, even when they’re otherwise not technologically inclined.  I recently had a millennial ask me what use anyone could possibly have for Excel, which was stunning by itself, but then she proceeded to arrange a meeting over Instagram on her phone at the drop of a hat and on a Saturday afternoon, which was even more shocking.

Make your social media work for you.  Go through the social media apps on your phone, see what you use them for and why you have so many.  Then ask young people why they have apps you don’t.  Do those apps sound useful?  If so, get them.  If not, try them out anyway.  While you’re at it, follow the businesses you use most often, so you can find news and deals.  It’s better than email, faster and easier to interact.

Most importantly, if you’re not following us on Twitter and Facebook, now’s the time.  We put out a lot of great info to help you with your finances, and you can shoot us a question. With just a couple of clicks, you can see the questions other people have.  You might even learn the answer to a question you didn’t even know you needed to ask!

Sources:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2013/02/18/one-in-five-americans-work-from-home-numbers-seen-rising-over-60/
http://money.cnn.com/2015/08/13/retirement/retirement-income-plan/index.html
http://money.cnn.com/2015/09/03/pf/gig-economy-free-agents/index.html
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2015/09/04/credit-dotcom-financial-checklist/32349553/
http://www.bestplaces.net/city/texas/san_antonio
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/on-retirement/2014/04/16/the-worlds-9-most-affordable-places-to-retire

Trust Your Intuition To Shop Online (And Offline) Safely

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Shopping Online (And Offline) Safety Tips

In one way, shopping online is very similar to shopping at kiosks, in shops and in malls. Personal and financial safety is always of great importance, but it’s easy to forget about safety when we’re distracted or in a rush. Either way, online or offline, searching for the best item at the best price can be very distracting, and distraction can be a real problem.
 
Think about the actions of a pickpocket for a moment. Professional pickpockets are looking for victims who are distracted, making it much easier to lift wallets, phones, purses and bags from preoccupied shoppers. Victims in hectic airports and on busy sidewalks are often distracted by the crowd, and they might be talking or texting on their phones at the same time, too.
 
How many times have you passed through an airport and consciously thought about a pickpocket or a thief? And whenever you’re making your way through a downtown crowd or attending a special event, are you thinking about your personal and financial protection?
 
If you’re not inclined to think about your safety while in a crowd, you’re probably not thinking too much about your safety online either. Sadly, unscrupulous online vendors are well aware of that fact. They may set up a website, or a Craigslist or eBay listing, based upon the fact that most shoppers are too busy and too distracted to take a moment to consider their personal shopping safety.
 
Trusting your intuition is a very useful safety measure … assuming you pay attention to it.
 
If you just don’t feel right about a particular brick-and-mortar store, you probably avoid it, right? That’s natural. But do you avoid a website or auction listing just because something doesn’t look or feel right about it? If so, good for you. You are ahead of many folks in this area.
Most people who have used online dating sites become well-acquainted with profiles that don’t seem to make sense. It’s not always easy to identify the problem, but something just seems off, so they click away and check out other profiles as they shop for a possible date. Maybe it’s just a feeling, but they learn to trust it.
 
Online dating can teach you a lot about using your intuition when you shop online. Even if you haven’t explored online dating yourself, no doubt you’ve heard stories about fakers and scammers who compromised the personal and financial safety of someone they met online. Sadly, it’s not an uncommon experience.
 
That’s why internet shopping safety is primarily a matter of considering the real person or company behind every website and each listing you visit. Trust your intuition to guide you. To do this, you have to set aside distractions and you can’t be in a rush.
 
Look for:
  • Product descriptions that are too short, clipped and inadequate. If a normal person needs more information to make an intelligent purchase, move on to another site to make your purchase. Something may not be right.
  • Spelling and grammar errors that stick out and detract from your shopping experience. Reputable companies hire experienced copywriters and editors to eliminate basic spelling and grammar mistakes. Scammers, many of whom are not located in the United States, skip the expense and try to do it themselves.
  • A physical address in the United States. If you can’t find a physical address at the bottom of a website, or on the About or Contact pages, there’s a problem. The CAN-SPAM Act requires commercial emails to include the physical address of the sender in the email and on the website to which any commercial email is linked. But, CAN-SPAM does not require websites to list a physical address, and it does not impose a fine as it does on commercial emails without physical addresses.
 
In other words, the law does not protect you by requiring a physical address on every website, but your own intuition can    protect you by raising a red flag whenever you can’t locate a physical address. Reputable sellers are eager to provide the information buyers need to identify and verify them. Go elsewhere to shop if you don’t find a physical address you can verify online by making sure it matches the business you found on the web.
  • A secure payment portal. Look carefully at the website address in the address bar at the top of your browser screen. It should begin with https:// because the “s” indicates a level of security you need whenever you’re going to enter credit card or other personal information.
 
However, you may visit a site with an address beginning with http:// (without an “s”) and it can also be safe because it will direct to a secure site for credit card or checking account information when you check out. Usually, you’ll need to begin a purchase transaction before you know how a merchant is set up to collect your data. So, it’s not a bad idea to select one item and simply begin the checkout process, stopping short of clicking, “confirm”. That way, you’ll know what to expect with your real purchase.
 
 
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The Credit Union Difference

The ‘Pink Tax’

Pink Tax: Does Shopping Like a Girl Cost You Money?

What’s the ‘Pink Tax’ Anyway? 

Several economic studies have confirmed the existence of a so-called “pink tax,” an inflated price attached to goods and services specifically marketed to women. While theories abound to explain the pricing discrepancy, its existence seems clear. On everything from razors and deodorant to car repair and haircuts, women are expected to pay more for products marketed directly to them. In many cases, marketing is where the differences stop.
 
It may seem like pennies, but across the board, these pennies add up. One study by the University of Florida found that women end up paying about $1,400 more per year. This invisible tax is taking money out of your pocket. Want to get it back? Here are some ways you can avoid the pink tax.
 
Go ScentlessBetter sit down ladies! He paid $4.99 for a razor and she paid $10.79.
 
Personal hygiene products are among the biggest contributors to that $1,400. Items like lotion are rebranded as “facial moisturizer” and packaging with floral designs. The “moisturizer” sells for 7-8% more than the “lotion.” The functional difference between the two products? In most cases, absolutely none. When there is a difference, it’s usually in perfume.
 
The worst culprit of the flowery-smelling foul play is deodorant. Men’s and women’s deodorants all have the same active ingredients, usually in the same ratios between brands. A stick deodorant is a stick deodorant until it comes time to scent it. Floral-scented deodorants sell for as much as a dollar more than their muskier counterparts.
 
No one wants to smell like a man (even many men). So what’s the answer? Look for scentless or perfume-free personal hygiene products. Not only are they cheaper, but the lack of chemical perfumes can be better for your body in the long run, too.
 
If you miss the floral aromas of your old products, consider purchasing essential oils in similar scents. You can add them to lotions and deodorants yourself at home for a fraction of the cost and keep a closer eye on what you’re putting on your skin.
 
When in doubt, check the ingredients. Compare your usual to a comparable male product. If there’s a reason for a gender difference, it’ll show up here. In most cases, the active stuff is all the same.
 
Ignore the packaging
 
The most flagrant example of the “pink tax” has to be in razors. No difference exists between razor cartridge replacements for men and women except the color of the packaging. Yet, a 4-pack of Venus razors costs $4 more than a 4-pack of Fusion razors. They’re the same razor, made by the same company. The only difference is the more expensive one is pink and the cheaper one is blue.
 
It’s not just razors, though. Toys, like scooters that are marketed to children, can vary wildly in price depending upon their paint job. One retailer listed blue childrens’ scooters for $24.99 and an identical pink scooter for $49.99. Incontinence aids marketed to men contained twice as many pieces as the same product marketed to women. Either in quantity or in cost, pink packaging costs quite a bit!
 
Women frequently encounter what one economist calls the “pink expectation.” Most products for men are imagined to be the default, so products for women must be modified in some way to make them more acceptable. Even when there’s no difference in the product, the expectation is used to justify the increased cost. Manufacturers have been exploiting that expectation to make money on the backs of women for years.
 
Where possible, look for gender-neutral or generic brand products. For razors, especially, the only possible differences are number of blades and level of lubrication. If it has the same number of blades as the razor you’re currently using, you can use more shaving cream or soap (another popular target for the pink tax!) to increase your comfort.
 
Online services
 
Perhaps the most surprising place for price differences to occur is in the service industry. Dry cleaners, auto mechanics and hair stylists are getting away with charging more to women than to men. What can be done here?
 
For some industries, justifications may exist. Dry cleaners may need to take more care around adornments on women’s clothing, and stylists may have more hair to deal with. In these instances, it’s best to take the justification head on. Women with short hair should ask for the men’s price and cut. Bring a mixture of men’s shirts and women’s shirts to the dry cleaner and ask the counter staff to explain the pricing difference. In many instances, service providers value your business more than they value an artificial markup.
 
Where possible, though, remove gender from the equation altogether. Buying cars via email using a gender-neutral signature, like the first letter of your first name, can result in more fair haggling practices. Getting quotes and estimates from mechanics via text message can discourage them from attempting to artificially inflate their bills.
 
Finally, if you see an instance of biased pricing like this, let others know. Let businesses that do these things know that it’ll end up hurting their bottom line in the long run. By frequenting establishments that don’t practice this kind of discrimination, you can help end the “pink tax” for everyone.

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